American troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border got a lot of attention over the Thanksgiving holiday. But at the same time there was a quieter mission underway, involving military personnel from Hawaii and Guam.
Since late October, American militaryy personnel have been in the Commowealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. They are on the islands of Tinian and Saipan responding to widespread damage from a super typhoon.
On October 25th, Super Typhoon Yutu made landfall on the island commonwealth, whose residents are U.S. citizens. The territory of Guam was largely spared, but Tinian and Saipan experienced widespread damage. Electrical and water utilities were both out of service and many homes experienced substantial roof damage.
Approximately 90 U.S. Army Reserve personnel live on Saipan and were able to respond immediately. Further reinforcements from Guam, Hawaii, and Japan had to be flown in via military aircraft once the storm cleared. The troops have been providing support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local civil authorities.
With winds reaching 180 mph, Yutu is being considered the most powerful storm to strike any part of the United States in almost a century. A 1935 hurricane that hit the Florida Keys is believed to be more powerful.
Military personnel in Saipan have been clearing roadways, removing debris, distributing supplies, and helping to reestablish utility service. Approximately 1,000 people of the island’s 58,000 residents are still living in crowded shelters. FEMA is distributing tents and providing financial assistance for roof repairs.
If the recovery continues as planned, most of the Hawaii-based troops will return home in mid-December.